In an interview in ESPN last week, Nick Saban fired a right hook on the chin of college football’s scheduling format.
“Playing a bunch of games that nobody’s interested in is not good for the game,” Saban said on First Take as he lobbied for an expanded conference schedule and Power Five teams playing only Power Five opponents. “Players, when you’ve been playing SEC games, they’re not interested in playing somebody that doesn’t matter.”
Saban’s allies might not be plentiful, but count LSU Deputy Director of Athletics Verge Ausberry as one of them.
“I agree with him,” Ausberry said on my radio show this week. “If the rules change and everybody plays those types of schedules, we’ll play that type of schedule.
Ausberry is a former LSU linebacker (1986-1989) who has worked in the school’s athletic administration for nearly two decades. Among his chief duties is LSU football scheduling.
“None of us like playing the ‘buy’ games, the ‘guarantee’ games,” he said.
Ausberry also agreed with Saban that a student-athlete should have the opportunity to play every conference opponent during a four year career. LSU has lobbied that eliminating the permanent opponent in the 6-1-1 scheduling format would help solve that problem.
“If you want to change the format of scheduling, then let’s change the whole format and not just add a game to our schedule or two games to our schedule and it won’t be balanced with some other teams in the conference,” he said.
The SEC scheduling format currently includes eight league games and requirement that all members play at least one Power Five non-conference opponent per season. Currently, the Big 12, Big Ten and Pac-12 all play nine conference games while the SEC and ACC play eight apiece. Ausberry, who was part of two SEC championship teams in Baton Rouge, remembers what it was like to play meaningful games each week.
“I like the big games,” he said. “When I was here as a player, we only had six SEC games but we also had the opportunity to play Texas A&M—who wasn’t in the conference at that time—North Carolina and Notre Dame all in the same year. I think our fan base now, they want to see those type of games. But, at the same time, when I’m scheduling, I’m doing the same thing as Alabama, Georgia, Auburn, Tennessee, Ohio State and Texas. We’re all scheduling the same way.
“So, if the Power Five commissioners get together and want to make the change to the scheduling format, we have no problem with that.
“Let’s be honest. It’s hard to get your team up to play those guarantee games. And they’re trap games. With the right opponent, you get trapped, like last year we got trapped with Troy. You beat that team nine out of ten times, but if you’re not ready to play in those type of games, you’ll get beat.”
Ausberry also agreed with Saban that fan attendance should be a driving factor toward a change.
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